The Killane – our only Cup team this year – had an excellent start to their campaign, winning against a Rathmines side who had ratings advantages on four of the six boards.
With exam season approaching full flow, the team was a mix of the title-winning O’Hanlon A side and the ratings-defying O’Hanlon B, with William and Desmond from the latter joining the two Ciaráns, Brendan and Eddie from the former. With Gonzaga and Rathmines – first and second in the Ennis this season – both in our group, we needed to get off to a good start to have any hope of a top-two finish and a semi-final spot. We got it too, with a quick early win coming not from Eddie, but from Desmond, whose opponent badly mishandled the black side of a Colle and fell to a fairly standard attack.
Eddie did finish not too long after, taking a draw on 5. The other four were looking fairly even at this stage, but that changed when Ciarán R castled short in a French, reckoning the Greek Gift wasn’t on – but his opponent played it anyway, and after one moved which Ciarán had missed, he was in terminal trouble.
But as quickly as Ciarán’s game had turned, so had Brendan’s on 3. In trouble in the middlegame, his opponent swapped off his pieces, and when he offered a swap of both sets of rooks, Brendan took it, pushed a pawn, and his opponent suddenly realised the pawn endgame was completely lost…
That left us 2½-1½ up, with just William and Ciarán M left in play. William had been under a bit of pressure, but next thing I saw anyway, he was a piece up with a couple of pieces swarming around his opponent’s king. After saccing a piece for three pawns to reach Q, B+6 v Q, B+3, he missed a chance in time trouble to force the queens off, but his opponent offered the swap a couple of moves later anyway, having run out of checks, and the game was over. A good win v 1550 for William, whose own rating moves up to 1525 or so now; the race is on between him and Seán to be the next player to jump up to the U-2000 weekender bands.
Ciarán M, meanwhile, was a pawn up, but had a curious square pawn formation – pawns on g4, g5, f4 and f5. But as both players entered time trouble, a fork saw Ciarán pick up a piece to be simply cruising to victory – until he hung his rook. The game reached N+2 v B, N+2, raising the interesting possibility of Rathmines having to mate with B+N v king and a minute left. But Ciarán’s pawns were far enough advanced, and his opponent short enough on time, that a push/sac created enough of confusion that Rathmines accepted Ciarán’s immediate draw offer.
So 4-2 overall, which is a big result against the side second in the Ennis this year. Next up is Gonzaga at home, before trips to Bray (relegated from the O’Hanlon) and Curragh (one point above the drop in the Ennis) round things off.